Anatomy of Word: Create an employment application form using Word's table features

The Word 2003 Forms toolbar

Word forms

When you think of a form, you probably think of something like the piece of paper you fill out at the DMV, with boxes asking you for information such as your name, address, etc. If you look at an employment application, you'll probably see various requests for information including your employment history, educational history and so on. What do many forms that you use have in common? If you look carefully at them, you might be able to visualize them as tables. In you can, in fact, visualize your forms as tables, you can probably replicate that form in Word and make it easier for people to fill out.

We'll just jump right in and get started creating a form to use as an example. By the end of this article, you'll have a complete employment application form and you'll be able to have people fill it out using their computer.

You've probably assumed by now that, to create good-looking forms, you need to know the basics about how to create and manipulate tables in Word. Look to my previous two articles in this series to give you pointers about these operations.

The Forms toolbar

To really make use of forms in Word, you need to get to know and become familiar with the Forms toolbar, available by choosing View | Toolbars | Forms.

I'll go over the function of each button. Not all of them may make sense quite yet, but you'll see most, if not all, of them in action before you're done with this article.

The first button on the toolbar (the one that looks like "AB") allows you to place what's called a "text form field" on your new form. A form field is an area on your new form where someone electronically filling out the form can place their cursor and type information and it will show up in the right place. If this doesn't make sense right now, that's ok. It will soon.

A text form field can hold data such as text, dates, phone numbers, normal numbers and more. When you use these fields to hold numbers, you can perform calculations on these kinds of fields.

The second button, the checkbox, allows you to place a check box form field on your form. A check box form field is useful if you need to ask Yes/No type questions, such as "I've been convicted of a felony." If the person checks the box, they're indicating that they have, in fact, run afoul of the law at some point in their life.

The third button, which looks like a Windows window, lets you put a drop-down selector on your form with specific values. For example, you might put a drop-down option on your form to ask for an applicant's highest level of completed education.

The form field options button, the fourth from the left and grayed out in this image, provides you with a place to set options for each individual field on your form. Using this button, you can set default text for a field, or provide the options for a drop-down selection list.

The next two buttons allow you to either draw a table or insert a table into your Word document. Since tables and forms are so tightly intertwined, Microsoft decided to make it easy for you to add tables to your Word document right from the Forms toolbar.

The last four buttons, in order are:

  • Insert Frame: Allows you to insert a frame into your Word document into which you can place a picture or other object.
  • Form Field Shading: When you're working on a form, it can be nice to separate the form fields from the normal text. Using this button, you can make the fields on your form stand out by shading them in gray.
  • Reset Form Fields:
  • Protect Form: Locks the fields so that a user can't change the way you've set them up. The user will only be able to fill in the fields as you expect them to.